2014 NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks' Conn Smythe Candidates Through Round 1

By Sean Sarcu
Jonathan Toews Corey Crawford Duncan Keith Chicago Blackhawks
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

After a hotly-contested six-game series win over the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks‘ early candidates for the Conn Smythe trophy are quite clear.

Jonathan Toews‘ three goals and four assists in six games have him on pace to edge out his production during his Conn Smythe-winning postseason in 2010. All three goals have been game-winners, an achievement currently unmatched by any other NHL player in this year’s playoffs. He ranks near the top of the league in face-off percentage with an impressive 62 percent, and has been as effective as ever in Chicago’s defensive zone.

Duncan Keith is among the league leaders for points among defensemen thus far in the postseason, and is coming off a performance in Game 6 that Joel Quenneville termed “the best game [he’s] ever seen [Keith] play.” As expected, Keith has played more minutes and taken tougher matchups than he did during the regular season.

This has been typical since 2011, when Quenneville decided to lessen Keith’s burden during the 82-game campaign in order to “save” him for the playoffs. This has paid off handomsely thus far for Chicago, as Keith was easily the most impactful defenseman in the NHL during the first round.

Corey Crawford appears primed for another fantastic postseason after being perhaps the single biggest reason the Blackhawks emerged victorious in the first round. His .935 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average are great numbers, but they may actually understate just how good Crawford was in the six games against St. Louis.

Chicago’s season would almost certainly be over if not for Crawford’s exceptional display in Game 3, where he earned a shutout despite the Blackhawks being thoroughly outplayed from start to finish.

Toews, Keith, and Crawford are a clear step above the rest of Chicago’s players in terms of Conn Smythe viability at this point. Patrick Kane could join the mix with a strong second round. The stars have shown up in style for the Blackhawks.

Sean Sarcu is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter or add him to your network on Google.

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